DALLAS — “You can’t throw a ball through the nose of a defender and have it come out of his (rear) to a teammate,” Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said on the eve of Sixers-at-Mavs, by way of clarifying what might be a misunderstanding that is leading to his team’s turnover woes.
After climbing above .500 last week, Dallas dropped three straight games, all on the road, all featuring a dizzying total of giveaways. In those losses, the Mavs coughed up the ball 28, 17 and 20 times — the first such three-game streak in franchise history since 1998.
Dallas came in ranking in the bottom third of the NBA in turnovers, giving it away on 14.6 percent of its possessions. Meanwhile, here came the 76ers, the fifth-most larcenous squad in the league, having already nabbed 162 steals on the young season.
One team taketh. The other team giveth away in such a manner requiring the coach to conduct a physics-and-anatomy class.
“The total was good,” said Carlisle after Dallas’ 107-100 home victory in which the Mavs committed just 11 turnovers. “Compared to what’s been happening, it was great. Fantastic.”
The Mavs (12-13) have other issues to juggle. Dirk Nowitzki (knee) is working up a sweat at practice this week and did the same in pregame warmups at the American Airlines Center in anticipation of making his season debut sometime between Christmas and New Year’s. Nowitzki’s absence, and the inconsistencies of others, have placed a great burden on the shoulders of O.J. Mayo, who scored 26 here. As the team’s leading producer he is asked to lead and distribute (he had eight assists) and defend standout wings. And, to top it off, Mayo has played 893 minutes, the most on the team and 146 more minutes than the next-closest player (Darren Collison has played 747).
Put another way: Add up the minutes and divide by 48 and you see that Mayo has played almost three more games than any other Maverick.
Also interesting to gauge is the use of center Chris Kaman, who returned to the team after missing Monday’s practice due to the death of his grandmother. Kaman has shown himself to be an offensive force as he supplements Mayo. But in the five games previous to the Philly visit, he played a grand total of zero fourth-quarter minutes. Happily for the Mavs, that wasn’t the case Tuesday as Kaman was good for 20 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes of play — and eight of those points came during the final 5:26 of the game.
“We try to involve those guys in a lot of things because they’re both playing so well,” Carlisle said of Mayo and Kaman. “O.J.’s aggression was really key.”
One more example of the increased load for former Grizzlies sixth man Mayo now that he’s a Mav: This is the first time in Mayo’s career he’s had 26-plus points and eight-plus assists in the same game.
Said Mayo of carrying the load in the clutch: “I feel comfortable in that situation. You start to attack and you make a positive play for our team.”
This is the seventh straight home win for the Mavs in this series. But bothersome still is a Nov. 27 visit to Philadelphia in which Dallas committed six straight fourth-quarter turnovers to lose 100-98.
That was a game in which Mavs passers tried to violate Carlisle’s physics-and-anatomy class teachings.
This time, Dallas got efficient work from: backup big man Brandan Wright (10 points and six rebounds), called upon in part because Elton Brand (groin) was unavailable; Darren Collison (12 points), who replaced Derek Fisher when he sustained a first-quarter knee injury; and Shawn Marion, who posted nine rebounds and 14 points — those points allowing him to become the 95th player in NBA history to eclipse 16,000 career points.
“We’re happy to get out of here alive,” said Carlisle, well aware that efficiency will continue to be necessary as the Mavs’ 2012 calendar finishes up with formidable foes that include Miami, Memphis, San Antonio and, in total, six clubs that are .500 or better.